3D Printing Apps Every Engineer Should Know

It isn’t just engineers getting interested in 3D printing these days, as doctors, astronauts, mechanics, and construction professions see 3D printing potential in many promising ways. However, tech-savvy engineers should stay up-to-date on the latest tools and trends in the industry as it applies to their particular field.

These are some 3D printing apps that every engineer should get familiar with. Some of them are highly useful, some are interesting in a theoretical sense, and some are just plain fun!


3D Builder

This Microsoft app allows you to create 3D scans using the Kinect v2 system. There are several types of supported printers, including the 3D Systems Cube 3, and you can print in more than one material on them. This is a fun way to create and personalize 3D models, edit them, and add text. It’s integrated with the 3D Systems Cubify service, which offers beautiful prints for home delivery if you don’t have access to a 3D printer.


This is an iOS app developed by Inventer, Inc. that’s useful for 3D modeling and designing. It uses a touchscreen and has a large library of 3D shapes to choose from. Engineers can build 3D models from these shapes and edit them to meet their needs. You can try the app for free to see if you like it and buy additional shapes packs from the App Store.

123D Design

Suitable for web, Mac, and PC, this 3D modeling app allows you to import 3D print ready STL files and incorporate them in your designs and then export 3D print-ready files in STL format. One interesting feature of this app is that it allows users to view the creations of other app users too.



Tinkercad is another favorite app among engineers because it allows you to edit, change, and refine the model you’ve created as much as you need to. You can also export various formats of 3D print-ready files, including STL and OBJ. Autodesk 123D is a group of these last two apps, plus 123D Catch, free to download and software-integrated with content and fabrication services.


Designed by MakerBot, this is a community-focused app that’s great for making, discovering, and sharing 3D printed creations. In the spirit of sharing and openness, the developers encourage users to tag designs with a Creative Commons license. Even if you don’t have a big idea of something new to create, this is a fun app to simply browse and see what other innovators are doing.

SketchUp Mobile Viewer

Available on both iOS and Android tablets, SketchUp Mobile Viewer allows users to present 3D model creations in an attractive format, which is great for business presentations. This app uses preset cameras to switch from one project to the next. There’s also a virtual 3D warehouse to browse so perhaps you don’t have to start your project from scratch. Two useful features of the app are the ability to zoom out to reorient the view and also easily export to the desktop version.

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan and Ministerio TIC Colombia via Flickr

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